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Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

Lead Me Not Into Temptation | Tuesday April 12, 2 pm

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Privy Garden

The Privy Garden at Whitehall is laid out in ordered blocks with statues in the center of each square, the classical creatures easily draw the eyes of lovers of art. The different statues depict the nine Muses (Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania) and the three Graces (Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia), each holding or surrounded by that which is most associated with her, such as a lyre or scroll. As one wanders, it is often noted that the red roses remain on one side of the garden while the white ones remain on the opposite side, thus creating a pleasant contrast throughout. About the garden are scattered several benches, but none are secluded.


 

 

For her meeting with Lord Silverbridge, Anne-Elisabeth had chosen a gown of bright coral silk shot through with golden threads. She had thought about wearing a more subtle color just to surprise the intriguing Baron, but she just couldn’t resist attiring herself in vivid hues. With tanned skin and raven hair, she had the coloring for them. Jewel tones would make a fair-skinned lady with light hair look pale and washed out. So why not wear colors that most ladies could not pull off?

 

Over it, she wore an equally flamboyant turquoise cloak trimmed around the edges with soft brown fur. After a year and a half in England, she had not yet adjusted to the climate after spending most of her life in Barbados. She also wore a thick chemise and warm stockings beneath her gown. With the sun shining brightly in the early afternoon sky, she felt quite comfortable as she made her way from her carriage to the Privy Garden.

 

A bit early, the young Countess decided to visit the statue of Urania. Lord Silverbridge would not be able to miss her standing in the square. Urania was the muse of astronomy and Anne-Elisabeth loved to study the night sky. Perhaps her favorite muse would help her to discover a new star, which was one of her yet-unfulfilled dreams. As she gazed up at the statue’s stone face, she found her thoughts not on the heavens but on the handsome and witty gentlemen she had met in church yesterday. She was eager to know more about him and engage in more flirtatious banter.

 

Perhaps, if things go well, I shall show him the labyrinth.

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He was late.

No fault of his own as he was not familiar with Whitehall let alone what surrounded it! He had assumed she had ment St James Park so he had gone there earlier than the arranged time and walked back and forth but could not find her. He guessed she would attire herself in much the same fashion but there too he was unable to spot such a creature. He had found himself at a loss but with determination thought that there must be some other 'Garden' so he, with his height and quiet elegance, had simply found a Palace page and asked and tossed a penny for the help. He made his way to what he had been told was the Privy Garden and soon found himself there. Taking stock of the surroundings and checking the inside of his deep blue coat with silver braid and buttons with pants that matched worn over a cream waistcoat embroidered discreetly in a small flower scroll done by his sister he walked straight ahead.

He took in the articutural layout and found it quite pleasing to the eye. The placement of statuary added to it as well as the display of both red and white roses in abundance. A movement caught his attention and he half turned towards it.

there she was

The color of her cloak combined with her hair color made him think of a tropical bird and that was what she was in actuality! She was before a statue looking as if she were in some contemplation as he approached quietly.

""You Prayers has been answered. I have arrived as promised. I am sorry for my lateness .... forgiven?"

He smiled down at her his eyes alight with amusement. 

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As the moments passed by, each one seeming longer than the last, Anne-Elisabeth’s mood turned from eager anticipation into simmering anger. He stood me up! He never intended to meet me in the gardens today. He was just leading me on!

 

She sat on the bench close to the statue and began to plot her revenge. Lord Silverbridge was going to pay for the joke he had played on her. She didn’t see the statue as she gazed up at it. Her mind was churning with various methods of obtaining vengeance. He was so new to court that …

 

His voice startled her and she leapt to her feet. Spinning to face him, her cloak and gown flared around her and fat raven ringlets bounced about her shoulders. As soon as she saw Lord Silverbridge's smile, her plans for retribution began to fade like a foggy mist on a bright summer morning.

 

“I was beginning to think that you had played me for a fool,” Anne-Elisabeth admitted, “and that my trust in you had been misplaced. I’m glad I was wrong.” Her grin was both winsome and wicked. “You should be too.

 

“And yes, I forgive you, my lord. I won’t even ask you why you were late.”

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She swirled about her plumage on display and temper to match he thinks. Yet her smile was quick and she more amiable.

"I would never do such a thing." Hand to his heart. "And a fool is not what I think you are. There are far better words I assure you."

"Ah. But explain I shall. I am not at all familiar with this place ..." He gestured to take in their surroundings. "So I had thought you arranged for St James Park. Thus I did arrive early and walked back and forth to exhaustion."

"But never you did I see. Until at last I bribed a palace boy with a penny and was told of here."

"And so I have arived. And I come not empty handed. Please let us sit."

One hand went to her shoulder and he led her to the bench she had just left seeing her settled before he sat beside her but not touching.

"I hope that this will assuage any thoughts of revenge ..."

He was half turned towards her as he reached inside his coat and gently took out a white handkerchief. Cradeling it he asked her to hold out her hands.

"I could not help it. I came by this poor thing not far from here and I could not pass by even tho I tried. It is no doubt an orphan and quite lost."

"Will you accept it and not be lonely? A peace offering for my lateness."

Unwrapped she would fine a small kitten barely old enough to leave its mother. It was pure white with startling green eyes. A tiny meow could be heard. 

"This place is sure to be littered with cats employed no doubt in much the same ways we use them for. Yet this one tugged at my heart."

He was for all his height and strength a gentle man and sentimental when he needed to be.

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Oh, but Lord Silverbridge was charming! Anne-Elisabeth wondered just what words he would use to describe her, but she didn’t have time to ask before he launched into an explanation that she had promised not to ask for. “I should have been more specific,” she admitted with a rueful smile. “It’s an easy mistake to make."

 

One raven eyebrow rose when he said he had not come empty-handed. Had he brought her a gift? The thought delighted her. It must be small, like a piece of jewelry, something he could carry in his pocket. “You never fail to intrigue me, my lord,"  she said, allowing him to lead her to the bench she had been sitting on while plotting her revenge.

 

And he had guessed what she had been doing! Did Lord Silverbridge hold grudges too? Anne-Elisabeth made a note never to get on his bad side, no matter how clever an adversary he might be. She leaned forward as he pulled a handkerchief from his coat. By the gentle way he held it, it must be very fragile. She held out her hands when he asked her to and he placed it in her hands. It was moving!

 

She pulled the edges of the handkerchief apart and found herself holding …

 

A kitten.

 

Anne-Elisabeth had never been fond of cats. They were too much like her … sleek, elegant, arrogant, and with no morals to speak of. She just looked down at it while he told her that he had found it on the way and couldn’t pass it by. It was so tiny. Were all kittens that small? She couldn’t help feeling sorry for the little creature, probably orphaned before its mother could teach it to hunt. It was innocent, helpless, and vulnerable.

 

If she didn’t accept it, where would it wind up? Killed by a dog? Taken it by somebody who would expect it to be content with whatever scraps they threw its way? Would it be neglected, ignored, and abused? Perhaps she could convince Lord Silverbridge to keep it. She didn’t want to be ungrateful, but …

 

And then it yawned … scrunching up its little face and opening its mouth so wide that all its teeth could be seen … and the young Countess was completely smitten. You will never want for anything, she promised it. I will love you and cherish you unconditionally.  You will have everything that a kitten could possibly desire. All the other cats will envy you for having such a wonderful home.

 

Smiling, she softly scratched it behind its ears. It was a beautiful little thing with snow white fur and vivid green eyes. She looked at it in wonder and then raised her eyes to Lord Silverbridge. The fact that he was gentle and compassionate made him more endearing to her and she knew without a doubt that she wanted to get to know him better.

 

“Thank you,” she told him. “And I’m sure this dear little thing thanks you as well. It doesn’t seem old enough to be a mouser. I’ve seen rats that are larger.” She shifted the handkerchief and nestled it in the crook of one arm. The kitten stood up, stretched, turned in a circle, and then settled down into a comfortable position.

 

“I hope nobody who thinks we’re savages saw you give it to me.” She chuckled. “They’ll think you were presenting me with a snack.”

 

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Posted (edited)

Not everyone had a fondness for such animals beyond the usefulness of vermin catchers and he had gambled that she might be different.

Yet her reaction after a few minutes was as he had hoped and he nodded pleased that the little thing would be taken care of.

'I think perhaps her fate is more towards the inside rather than out - I see a future of comforts especially as you now are clearly "Mother".'

"Us? Savages?" He shook his head in disbelief. "And if you are hungry I can think of better things to offer as a snack  .... But you must tell me all your likes for I should hate to be scolded for the wrong things."

He was mock serious but his eyes danced and he reached out one hand to gently brush away some leaves that had settled on one of her shoulders.

"I should hate to see it stained  ...." 

It was really just wanting to touch her yet he couched it in manners.

"See." 

He held up some of the small leaves now a bit crumbled from off her cloak.

"Shall we walk a bit?" he asked. "Even tho I am fare worn thru from searching you out. If you are nice I shall by you some refreshment of your choice."

He stood and took the kitten from where it rested and once again tucked in inside his coat with care.

"Shall we?"

He held out an arm his smile charming and playful.

Edited by John Palliser

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Anne-Elisabeth had seen cats roaming through her garden and assumed that one of her servants took care of them, if they needed taking care of at all. Perhaps all they needed was a diet of rats. She had not seen a single rodent in her house, so they were obviously good at their job. Cats were necessary inconveniences that had to be tolerated, and she had never thought she would ever fall in love with one.

 

“I agree wholeheartedly. This little ball of fluff will be pampered and spoiled. I shall have my cook prepare some fish for her when we get home, accompanied by a saucer of milk.” Taking her eyes from the adorable kitten, she looked up at Lord Silverbridge. “You will be welcome to visit and see how she grows. If I am her mother, than you can be her father.”

 

She chuckled.  “We know we’re not savages, but you know how we’re seen.” Her eyes scanned the immediate area. Several courtiers were enjoying the gardens today. She saw two couples who seemed quite well-acquainted. There was an older woman strolling alone with her maidservant, a few young gentlemen laughing in a group, and a gaggle of teenage girls who were ogling the gentlemen under the watchful eyes of their tired-looking chaperone. None of them paid the least bit attention to the two foreigners with a kitten.

 

Anne-Elisabeth narrowed her eyes impishly as she looked him up and down appreciatively. “Oh, I do love my snacks. I have no doubt that you will learn of my preferences soon enough.” Her eyes briefly wandered to his lips, wondering how they would taste upon hers.

 

Lord Silverbridge brushed something from her shoulder. The warmth of his hand seemed to seep through her cloak, stirring desire within her. Maybe I will take him to the labyrinth. “Thank you, my lord,” she said. “And yes, let us get out of the shade of the tree that is still shedding its old leaves.” Her eyes widened. “There are some in your hair as well.” Reaching up, she flicked them away. His hair was such a pretty color. Why did men always have the best hair?

 

“There are a lot of benches where we can rest if you get too tired.” The tall, handsome Baron looked quite athletic to her, He was probably just teasing her. She let him take the kitten from her arms and tuck it back into his coat. It would be much more comfortable held close to the warmth of his body. Anne-Elisabeth envied it for its good fortune.

 

Standing up, she placed her hand upon his sleeve. His smile sent little thrills racing down her spine. “Urania is probably glad to see me go,” she said, indicating the statue with a wave of her free hand. “I’ve been calling on her all too often lately to show me the wonders of the night sky. Tell me, Lord Silverbridge, do you have a favorite muse?”

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"Well that shall ease my mind - knowing that you shall care for it and see to its wants and needs."

"I am actually a bit envious."

His smile was a teasing one yet there was some truth as well.

He followed her gaze but then gave a small shrug of one shoulder in dismissal. Drew in a breath as she repeated his geature her touch light.

"Do you? Yes I can see that you would appreciate me being a quick learner. I never disappoint ...."

He saw her look to his mouth and ran the tip of his tounge lightly over his lips before smiling as he reassured he that he was not in the least tired.

"Indeed I find myself eager to continue on curious to discover in what direction we shall go. Do you prefer a quick turn or a more leisurely stroll?"

He would be happy to oblige if she wanted a quick tumble but rather hoped she was of the later.

"A Muse?"

He thought for a moment.

"Why a 'Muse of Fire' naturally. Yet my Muse, unliike Master Shakespeare's, evokes no God Of War nor seeks reference to Kings."

"But rather speaks of Heat and Temperament. Senses."

"Something I think you can understand."

He had no need to mince words. She clearly was well able to understand and read between the lines.

"But I have no wish to discover everything all at once. Tis so much better is it not to anticipate." 

Her hand on his arm was tucked in comfortably aganist his side as he led her off adding 

"Will you be 'Guide' and leed me on?"

Said with such a straight face.

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Anne-Elisabeth noted the teasing tone in Lord Silverbridge’s voice. “Envious?” she asked, a wicked gleam in her eye. “If you really want me to feed you fish and give you a saucer of milk, that can be arranged.” She almost added that he could curl up beside her at night as well, but that comment was far too suggestive at this point in their relationship.

 

Her eyes narrowed playfully. “You never disappoint? I have very high expectations, you know.” He was a confident one. She liked that, for it was a trait she possessed as well. But was he daring? Was her creative? She certainly hoped so. His innuendo already filled her with excitement. Did hers have the same effect on him? She was being rather tame, but that was what their current conversation called for. Lord Silverbridge seemed to think like she did … anticipation was worth drawing out and savoring.

 

Ah, so he had seen her looking at his lips. Why else would he lick them like that … so innocently but also so sensuously? Bright little flames licked through her body and she felt like she was burning up despite the cool air on her face. I wish I could remove my cloak. If he did, it would look too suspicious. A lady who lived most of her life on a tropical island would normally be cold on a spring day in Englan. The fascinating Baron would know the effect that his simple gesture had on her and that simply wouldn’t do.

 

“I definitely don’t want to hurry. If we go too fast, we will not be able to experience everything the gardens have to offer.  And while I have been here before, there are many wonders I have not yet discovered.”

 

As far as Anne-Elisabeth knew, there wasn’t a muse of fire, Listening to Lord Silverbridge’s words, she thought there should be. There was certainly heat flowing through her veins. It was getting hotter and hotter beneath her cloak. She looked up at him, a sultry smile curving her lips. “I understand perfectly.” Her hand gently stroked his sleeve. “It seems as if we both delight in indulging our senses.” Maybe someday soon, I will be your muse.

 

And he agreed with her about savoring anticipation as well. “Of course I will be your guide.” I will definitely lead you on too. “We can simply stroll aimlessly or we can choose a destination. I know where the labyrinth is. It’s hard to miss. There’s also a walled garden around here somewhere. Perhaps we can discover its location together.”

 

Her smile turned mischievous. “What is your pleasure, my lord?”

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Posted (edited)

He said nothing in repy at first just continued giving her 'that' smile and his eyes danced in amusement. 

He knew that she knew he knew she was looking at his mouth and his gaze went to her luchious looking mouth wondering how she would taste. Sweet but with some spice mixed in he guessed.

"I am all for discovering My Lady be it gardens buildings or something else ... Every place has a story to tell do you nor think?"

He could not but help but feel the subtile pressure as her hand caressed his sleeve.     soon you shall be touching other parts as well

"So you take my meaning then? I am glad. It saves time not having to explain."

She agreed to be his Guide as he knew she would.

"Let us start slow shall we. A gentle ramble that does not tire yet creates excitement at what lies ahead."

"A labyrinth? That intrigues. You know it well? Or shall we be lost and must rely upon each other?"

"My Pleasure Lady is what ere pleases you. Lead on. And on the way let us continue to discover more of each other .... "

He slowed his pace to accomadate hers.

Edited by John Palliser

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Oh yes, Lord Silverbridge had seen her gaze. That disarming smile confirmed her suspicions. Perhaps without knowing her own intentions, Anne-Elisabeth had wanted him to notice. Whether accidentally on purpose of purposefully on accident, his reaction was alluring. And that, she believed had been no accident.

 

“Most places have a story to tell,” she agreed, “but if we encounter one that doesn’t, it is our obligation to give it one.” That comment, she hoped, aroused his imagination … and other parts of him.

 

“There seems to be an intrinsic understanding between us.” Her hand drifted slowly down his sleeve and briefly touched his wrist before meandering back to his elbow. “Maybe it was not serendipity that brought us together at church. If my mind was ruled by fancy rather than logic, I might believe that it was meant to be.”

 

Lord Silverbridge’s innuendo was delectable. “Very well, we shall luxuriate in the delights of the garden and allow it to surprise us with its wonders.”

 

He seemed quite interested in the labyrinth. “No, I don’t know it well. I found it last winter but it was so cold that I thought it best to leave before I got lost and froze to death.” Anne-Elisabeth smiled mischievously. “I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about freezing while I am with you.”

 

So their destination was up to her. “Then the labyrinth it is. There is supposed to be a fountain in its center. Let’s see if we can find it.”

 

She began to guide Lord Silverbridge down the path toward it. “Do you like to study the stars, my lord? I adore astronomy myself. What does the night sky look like in the colonies? Can you see the constellations clearly or are they usually hidden by clouds as they are here in England?”

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Her touch sent little trails of delight all over his body as he nodded his head in agreement of her observation.

"Anything is possible so it may indeed be Fate. We shall have to either attend Church frequently in appreciation or come up with other means to test your theory."

With his free hand he tucked hers more securely aganist his body as they began to walk towards the labyrinth.

He was surprised at her interest.

"Really? A most unusual occupation for a Lady. But then you are far from usual."

He guided her around some wet ground careful to make sure her skirts didn't suffer to much as he picked up her question.

"The night sky is black as ink and pocked with stars that glisten like diamonds in candlelight. Tis easy to read what lies up there if you know where to look."

"But Winter is awful and if the snow is heavy then wind follows and people and animals die of freezing. Spring comes and Life returns. Buds appears and flowers begin to bloom."

"Much like this." He gestured to take in their surroundings. " Summer is humid and hot and full of insects - in the air and on the ground. Fall is a beatuiful time as tthe leaves on trees turn gold and orange and red."

"I should think tis much different where you are from."  

"Will you ever go back there?"

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“If I ever see a chapel again, it will be too soon,” Anne-Elisabeth sighed. One reason she had suggested a stroll in the gardens rather than a ride in the park was that her bum was sore from sitting so much during the past four days. She doubted she was the only courtier who was happy that Easter came only once a year. “But I suppose we shall both be back on Sunday.” She grinned playfully. “I think the best way to show our appreciation is to sit together again.”

 

Her head tilted to the side. “I suppose we could test my theory by purposefully avoiding each other to see if circumstance draws us back together, but perhaps it is better not to test fate at all.”

 

As far as tests went, Lord Silverbridge had just passed hers. He did not told her that women should have no interest in science and that she shouldn’t stick her nose in places where it did not belong. Instead, he seemed both accepting and intrigued by her unusual hobby. He was also very gallant, leading her around a puddle of water instead of through it. Not all gentlemen were so solicitous of a lady’s gown. In fact, most of them probably wished to soil it so they could convince the lady to take it off.

 

“It’s not my occupation, but I wish it was. Now that I have a telescope, I’m trying to make a map of the night sky. Perhaps you might like to look through it when you check on the kitten.”

 

At the mention of his sweet little gift, Anne-Elisabeth indicated his coat with a nod of her head. “Is she doing all right in there? May I pet her?” Would he allow her to place her hand beneath his jacket? The notion excited her, but he would probably refuse her. It wasn’t as if they were in a private place. There were more courtiers in the garden now, likely happy to be outside after the long pious weekend.

 

The way Lord Silverbridge described it, the weather in the Colonies was a lot like its English counterpart, though perhaps colder. She shivered as she thought of people freezing to death, and instinctively moved closer to the handsome Baron so that their arms would have been touching if there were not so many layers of fabric between them. It seemed as if every day was a fight for survival in his primitive homeland, even in the summer. Insect bites could make you sick or even kill you. They probably had dangerous animals too. It was no wonder he had brought his sister to London to find a husband.

 

And yet he found beauty in it too. Anne-Elisabeth had never seen leaves change color and fall from branches until she had come to England. The raven-haired Countess was quite fascinated with the autumn season. Even feeling leaves crunching underfoot was new to her. “Is spring as cold as it is here?” she asked.

 

“Barbados also has four seasons.” Her grin was full of mirth. “Summer, more summer, a lot of summer, and still more summer. The sun shines brightly and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. The ocean has a lovely turquoise hue and you can swim in it all year round. Sometimes you can see dolphins leaping in the distance or whales gliding by spouting water into the air. Sharks are only a danger if you swim too far out. Jellyfish are beautiful but their sting can make you ill or even kill you. At night, the stars seem closer somehow, almost as if you can reach up and pluck them from the sky.

 

“I miss it horribly, but I doubt I will ever return. I told you about the shipwreck that stole my family from me. I don’t want to journey by sea anymore. Perhaps in time I may change my mind.”

 

Up ahead, the maze came into view. “What about you, my lord? Are you going back to the Colonies or will you make London your permanent home now that you have a land and a title?”

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He smiled at her reference to future Church attendance adding that he saw no reason as to why they could not share a pew.

"I have used a spy glass so will assume that a telescope is the same but on a larger scale. And what will you do with this map once complete?"

He was truly interested.

"Ah ... yes the kitten. Since I am responsible for taking her up tis only fitting that I moniter her progress."

At her asking he stopped and carefully opened his jacket and drew out the kerchief with the intention of placing it in her own hands.

"She is an obident thing to be sure yet I feel sorry to pen her up like this. Perhaps I was to rushed and should not have bothered? I can always set her free - there are many about who might be as like minded as myself."

"Your four seasons are one I would like to experience! I do not favor the long journeys but oft times the arrivals hold so much more."

"Yes that shipwreck. I did not mean to bring back hurts by asking. I apologize if that is so."

She probed him next with her own set of questions.

He would speak of it once they decided upon the Fate of the small creature and continued walking.

(personally he would not allow himself to cast it away and hoped she felt the same)

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Anne-Elisabeth was glad that Lord Silverbridge agreed to sit with her in Church next week. The service would be much more entertaining with him by her side. Perhaps it would become a habit. There was no reason a widow couldn’t sit with an unmarried gentlemen. Widows were assumed to be ‘merry,’ after all. And I’m probably one of the merriest of the bunch.

 

“I used a spyglass in Barbados. I don’t think telescopes have made it to the Caribbean yet. Once you’ve looked through a telescope, you’ll never want to use a spyglass again.” Lowering her voice, she added: “When I set it up in front of a second story window, I can even spy on the neighbors if they’re in their backyards.”

 

As she had expected, he did not allow her to stick her hand in his coat, but took out the handkerchief that the kitten was wrapped in and held it out to her. As soon as she took the little bundle, the kitten lifted up her head and mewed. She was probably asleep in there. Feelings of tenderness she had not believed herself capable of assaulted Anne-Elisabeth as she scratched the little thing behind her ears. Those strange emotions intensified when the kitten began to purr.

 

Surely Lord Silverbridge wasn’t serious? Was he really contemplating abandoning the kitten? There were dangers in the garden. A courtier’s dog … or maybe one of the King’s spaniels, could come across it and swallow it whole! A fierce protectiveness surged to life inside her. That was not going to happen. She would keep the little creature safe no matter what she had to do to ensure it.

 

This sensation was so out of character that it shocked her. Could it be that she actually had a heart? Oh, she had a literal one. It was pounding in her chest at the notion of anything harming the kitten. But a figurative heart? Anne-Elisabeth had always been so certain that hers had died long ago … that the only living soul she cared about was herself. She was incapable of love. Or was she? Was this what love felt like? Lifting the kitten, she held it against her heart, which settled down and beat in rhythm with the kitten’s purr.

 

“It’s all right,” she told Lord Siverbridge when he apologized for bringing up the shipwreck that had killed her family. “I have learned to live with my loss and I know my family wouldn’t want me to mourn for them forever. I must enjoy life so that their deaths will have meaning.”

 

As for the kitten, the young Countess narrowed her eyes. “So you are going to take away the gift you have given me?” She didn’t really think he would. He was probably just testing her. “She is mine now, and I am going to take her home after we part and give her the best life a kitten could ever wish for. If you promise not to let her go, you can carry her again. I think she feels safe underneath your coat."

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He knew she was of like mind as she held the kitten close aganist her.

"Certanily not." He quietly assured her. "I am not such a man as to be that cold-heated. I would no more toss it away than would you."

"Indeed the best place, for now, seems to be within my coat. Will you surrender her back then?"

"Trust Me." He held out one hand in all seriousness. "She will be warm and safe I swear it."

Even tho she had voiced her thoughts John felt that she was still not convinced that he would not leave it behind.

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